MySDscience is a collaboration between Larry Bock and ScholarNexus, a team of scientists and entrepreneurs founded by local researchers Will Alaynick, Jose Morachis, Nate Heintzman, and John Yamauchi. The diverse backgrounds and interests of the ScholarNexus founders represent the integration of science and community that embodies the heart of the Festival.
“ScholarNexus provides a home for academics who would like to be more involved in the scientific community in general,” said Dr. Will Alaynick, a research associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. “Whether that is working to guide and improve science education or helping a small biotech get a treatment to its patients, ScholarNexus helps smart people make the world a better place.” He added, “MySDscience and the San Diego Science Festival are a great part of ScholarNexus’ vision to serve the community by getting scientists out of the lab to interact with the public.”
Jose Morachis, a graduate student at the Salk Institute, described MySDscience as a great opportunity to engage the entire San Diego community. “With the growing trend of Web 2.0 and the popularity of MySpace and Facebook, I saw a need to involve the science community in a way that can produce new interactions and better communications as well as opportunities for the general public to be involved if they’re interested.”
MySDscience provides a venue for scientists and science enthusiasts to share ideas about the Festival, their research, and other relevant and intriguing topics. “It’s a virtual coffee shop or happy hour for scientists and science enthusiasts – discussions, blogs, and user groups allow an idea to spark and flourish with the interest and support of the scientific community,” says Dr. Nate Heintzman, a post-doctoral researcher at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, San Diego Branch. “On MySDscience, everyone in San Diego has the opportunity to ask specific questions of a scientist or to enter the general dialogue of the local research community.”
MySDscience offers various avenues of interaction for members, including sharing blog posts, joining groups, posting videos and artwork, starting discussions in the forums, and announcing events of interest to the community. As with any social networking site, a key component is networking. “Members of the site can really take advantage of these opportunities to advance their careers as well as their current research,” says John Yamauchi, a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego. “In addition to career advantages, opportunities exist to solicit valuable advice within a network of experienced scientists.”
This networking advantage is not just for the scientists in the community — it is also a way for teachers, parents, and science buffs to get involved. “There are many people interested in science who may not know that their activities have some science involved,” Alaynick said. “A bird watcher can help an environmental biologist, and a stay-at-home mom can help assess the quality of science education.”
Morachis agreed that MySDScience can play a civic role, too. “A voter may want some information or an opinion from experts on topics relating to science,” Morachis said. Yamauchi further noted that MySDScience “can potentially turn into such a hot bed of great scientific discussions that our politicians begin to utilize it to improve their understanding of relevant scientific issues.”
Following the Festival in 2009, the team at ScholarNexus expects that MySDscience will carry the spirit of the festival forward. “Ideally, this site will serve as the portal to the web for scientists and science students,” Alaynick said. “The site will help them stay up-to-date on the latest developments in science discovery, education and careers.”
With the continued growth and diversification of the San Diego scientific community, the inception of the first Science Festival on the west coast, and the increasing scientific interest and knowledge of the local public, MySDscience promises to bring together San Deigans from all walks of life to join in celebrating science. Membership is open to anyone.
Author: K. Lagor for MySDscience